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France minister: 'Over 1,000 officers injured in unrest'

April 2, 2023

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin denied allegations of brute force used by police officers against protesters but said that some officers are under investigation.

Protesters react in a cloud of tear gas during a demonstration in support to victims of police brutality
Police used legitimate, robust force to respond to violent attacks, the interior minister saidImage: SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS/AFP

More than 1,000 law enforcement officers and firefighters have been injured in demonstrations and riots across France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told local media on Sunday.

In an interview with France's Journal du Dimanche, Darmanin said since March 16, "1093 police officers, gendarmes and firefighters have been injured." He added that there have also been "2,579 arson attacks and 316 attacks on public buildings."

He did not reveal how many protesters have been injured but told the weekly newspaper that 36 officers were being probed on charges of excessive use of force.

France: Protests against Emmanuel Macron's reform

Denying accusations that the police used aggressive tactics and disproportionate force against demonstrators, he said, "When violence, thugs and the ultra-left get involved, then it is the duty of the police to say stop."

He said the police use legitimate force, which can be robust, but it is to respond to extremely violent attacks by "professional thugs," who were present to destroy property or to "kill cops."

Brewing political turmoil

France has been witnessing massive protests ever since President Emmanuel Macron and the government pushed through a law raising the pension age from 62 to 64.

The protests had  remained peaceful until March 16 when they turned violent after the government forced through the controversial reform without holding a vote in parliament.

During protests, police fired teargas and baton-charged crowds while demonstrators were seen throwing stones and directing fireworks at security forces.

The Constitutional Council is still reviewing the reform, however, the government has not shown any signs of favoring concessions in the pension reform.

Meanwhile, unions have called for the 10th strike day and protests across France on Thursday.

mf/sms (dpa, EFE)